The true learning process of becoming an adult starts the day after you graduate college. One moment, you are crossing the stage with your well-deserved diploma in hand, and next you are sitting on your parents couch asking yourself, “now what?”
The step from graduation into the “real world” can be a scary one. There are road bumps you are going to hit (more than once) and you might feel completely lost. Navigating your new life will be an ongoing process so cut yourself some slack. The changes that happen after college, mentally, physically, and emotionally, can be hard, but the truths you learn along the way will help shape you into who you are.
Your GPA and major don’t define you.
If your GPA looks terrible because you partied too much your freshmen year, or you chose to major in something that is lacking a stellar job market, tap into your other talents and skills. There is so much more to a person than their grades and an expensive piece of paper that says you graduated. You may be a great people person who would excel in sales. Don’t be afraid to branch out of your comfort zone and network. Your personality will mean more to employers than your major choice ever will.
Being healthy takes actual effort.
Many students lived the dream with school meal plans and access to a free gym. You may have never thought once about the nutritional value of late-night pizza, the calories in the 5 mojitos you drank on a Thursday night, or the amount of walking you did on campus that helped even some of that out. Somehow, your young body made it all work. After graduation though, you need to learn how to cook food for yourself (without endless amounts of wasted leftovers) and have a regular workout schedule. If you are working at a desk for eight hours a day, this will be a huge change on your body so make sure to adjust accordingly.
You will be forced to handle loss and change.
That guy you dated for three years in college? He suddenly feels you are holding him back. The next day your best friend gets engaged. How do you handle all of this? First, remember that you are on your own path in life. You may not be ready for marriage and kids because you want to travel. Does that make you better than anyone? No. Does that make you behind in society’s eyes? Who cares. When change happens after college, it can seem abrupt and like everything is moving too fast. Stay true to your values and your wants and you won’t have to worry about a thing. You will survive more breakups and bridal showers with grace this way.
It might be awhile before you get a job.
So what if you are 6 months out of college and still working at your old summer position? Believe it or not, you are not the only one. It can be almost a year, even longer, before you find your first “adult” or “real” full-time job, and it might not even be one you like or has anything to do with your ultimate dreams. Don’t fret! Everyone has to start somewhere.
The things you are capable of will amaze you.
Once you enter the real world, you will be completely overwhelmed by the life choices in front of you and your first reaction will probably be, “college didn’t prepare me for any of this.” Go forth and do your best to get outside of your comfort zone. Through new experiences, whether it be moving to a new city, landing your dream job, traveling by yourself cross-country, or even just surviving your first year out of college, you will learn how capable you truly are. Start giving yourself the credit you deserve now.
Being an adult is expensive.
For some, this may come as a huge shock. How do you create a budget? Where do I pay my student loans? Can I afford this new car? Don’t be afraid to reach out to adultier-adults and ask them for their budget tips. Create a spreadsheet so you know exactly where your money is going each month. You need to know how much to set aside for rent, your credit card, food, gas…the list keeps going. There will be a day when you make a financial mistake – but you will survive. Learn from this and move on.
You will never regret doing what you want.
This is different for everyone. You may want to save money to go travel the world, teaching English to children in China. You may have dreams of opening your own store one day so you can be your own boss. This might make your stomach all churn, because you see your purpose is being a mom at home. Regardless of what your goals in life are, you will never regret going after the things that mean most to you. It’s important to not let anyone influence your choices on the matter because at the end of the day it is your life to live. Make sure you are doing what is best for you. This is the time to be selfish in life.
Making friends is harder.
In college you have all of your friends within a mile of each other and see them on a daily basis. After college, you may end of living back at your parents’ house in the middle of nowhere suburbia. You will lose friends you made in college simply because you don’t see them every day anymore, and you might not be able to reconnect with friends from home if they all moved away. If you are lucky, you will find some amazing friends at work. But also don’t be afraid to get out there and try out for a kickball league or take an art workshop. The upside though is that the friendships you do make will be forged from a more meaningful place and have a stronger substance.
Life is a process.
After you finally land your first job, have your own apartment, and feel settled in you might ask yourself, “is this really it? Is this really what it means to be an adult?” Short answer is no. Nothing will ever be “it.” Life is constantly about change, growth, new experiences and learning. Don’t worry about life getting too mundane. There are still a lot of adventures waiting for you ahead. Your 9-5 is not your end-all be-all.
It’s okay to not have it all figured out.
If you don’t learn anything else today, learn this. Everything in your life will never be absolutely perfect all at once, but that is okay. You will have days where you spent all your money during an online sale while binge-watching Netflix. There will also be days where you accomplish a huge presentation at work, get in exercise, and still make time for your friends. Life will still go on.
Graduation from college is extremely bittersweet. You are proud of yourself for the accomplishment of earning a diploma, but you are also terrified of the new life ahead of you. You won’t be able to go from broke college senior to thirty, flirty and thriving overnight, but you will be able to take on the world with the lessons you learn along the way.